The International Delegation for Peace and Freedom in Kurdistan, consisting of more than 100 human rights advocates, academics and politicians from various European countries, was established in response to and in opposition of the Turkish incursions in Southern Kurdistan (Iraq) and planned a visit to Hewlêr (Erbil) in June. The objective was make observations in territories occupied by the Turkish state, assess and report on the destruction on people, nature and ecology, and to help build friendly relations between the Kurdish people and the peoples of Europe.
Despite attempts by the Turkish and German governments and the Kurdistan Democratic Party to physically prevent the visit with force and detention, the delegation made contacts in the region, met with people, and was able to make observations, after which delegate members returned back in groups to their countries. They are now in the process of organising events at various European centres for sharing their observations on the situation in the region and on the Turkish invasion and occupation.
Lida Weerts, a Dutch human rights activist and a feminist living in Norway, has been closely monitoring the developments in Turkey and Kurdistan for years. She’s also actively taking part in the field of women’s rights in Kurdistan for the last couple of years.
She also participated in the international initiative for the freedom of the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan. Indicating that Öcalan, through his call for peace, has proved to be the key factor in any solution of the Kurdish problem, she says that the Kurdish people are one of the most peaceful people in the world and they are bound for success as long as they continue with their peaceful actions in Europe.
Weerts went to Hewlêr in March 2019 on behalf of ”Solidarity with Kurdistan” to support the hunger strikes organised under the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) Deputy Leyla Güven to break the isolation on Öcalan. She later participated in the hunger strike in Stockholm, Sweden, and made a public declaration on demands of the hunger strikers.
Weerts, as the spokesperson for the Defend Kurdistan Initiative, spoke to Yeni Özgür Politika about the initiative and the visit to Southern Kurdistan.
Underlining that the cause for Kurdistan is a human rights cause, she said, ”Maybe we are able to make some difference. I realised that our work has only just begun when we returned back to Europe. We must call the people to protest against the geopolitical powers in Kurdistan and try to stop the process.”
”According to the 2021 index of the Freedom House, Iraq and Southern Kurdistan are on the list of non-free countries. Southern Kurdistan is one of the dangerous places in the world in terms of freedom of expression, for the defenders of human rights and journalists. Unfortunately most cases of murder and attacks on journalists and activists go unpunished. So they were definitely not happy about out visit. However, being there and raising our voice gave strength to the wider Kurdish people.”
Weerts also shared her impressions of the delegation’s contacts: ”It was nice to be in Kurdistan, to talk to the people, to listen to their problems. It gave us strength to see that people have such a will to defend their rights. I preferred to talk to the activists because they are even more passionate. The speeches of politicians were more diplomatic. I hope the politicians we met keep their word and put the interests of the people before their own interests.”
”We are a very motivated group. Our aim is to become an effective movement in Europe. It is only the imperialists with geopolitical motivations who do not care about the people in Kurdistan. That’s why we need to touch the hearts of people in Europe and convince them to raise their voices.”